March 14, 2010


SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is turning fifty soon.. Actually, as strange scientific enterprises go, SETI has been very honest: It has a clear criteria for how it detects "intelligence", and has been pretty honest about its failings. The whole thing is largely run as a side-show now, and that's a good thing, but it was not too long ago that some very serious voices in public science policy were advancing it as Very Important. I think the last time I saw anyone advance it as Very Important, it was Wired magazine and a number of internet outlets around the beginnings of SETI@home.

I recently tried to re-watch Cosmos on Netflix Watch Instantly. After two-and-one-half episodes, I gave up. It wasn't the outdated information, the low production values, or even Carl Sagan's strange accent ("youmans"): It was the absolutely boring and droning ideology. There were times that Sagan could be downright inspiring––his Pale Blue Dot is something very like a secular eschatological text–but under that there was always a thick layer of Gibbonesque squalor. Mankind lived in total ignorance and darkest filth until the Early Modern Era, and since then, everything has been Enlightenment (except for those nasty nuclear weapons that may wipe out our species). This often involved misunderstanding the motivations of historical figures, or even outright fabrications of the sort good scholars could have simply corrected at the time of the original airing. I'm comparing this with my recent viewing of Terry Jones's Medieval Lives where, despite his obvious personal apathy to religion, Jones is very forward and honest about the work of medieval scholars, down to even suggesting that the Renaissance could have been a backwards-step in scientific awareness (certainly the Enlightenment's a priori sciences were, largely).

At his best, Sagan provided an emotional and even religious context for secular humanism. It did not matter to him that his religion was really only a religion of the priests (for even most of its advocates never take part in its higher ceremonies other than to derisively contrast them to traditional ones on the internet), or that the ideology even blinded him to facts–in history and in modern society–upon which his whole world-view was built. He was an evangelist, and one of rare power, given a fully-funded PBS series upon which to make his case. There was something very impressive and numinous about Cosmos as a boy; compared to the Orthodox faith, now, it falls a little flat.

• • •

Part of the worldview so enthusiastically advanced by Sagan was the cult of the "empirical" test. When "empiricism" becomes a cult, you know because empirical tests are designed which provide results overdetermined by the rational model they were inspired by, but are hailed as "proving the model", rather than simply demonstrating its rigor and applicability. To the point.

There is nothing in this experiment that "proves" Heidegger's model; it does provide more anecdotes about how the brain may interact with tools that become "part" of us. What is telling is that even the comments (which provide some good alternatives or other issues) do not point out that the noise was read in the way it was largely because it was expected to occur. There has been enough said about the issues with reduction in neuroscience to where I do not feel I have to repeat all the arguments; this is just a very particular example of means and method that should be a little more clear to most of us than the general cases.

• • •

I find myself incredibly generous, compared to many of my friends, in the labels I'm willing to use to describe many of the intellectual frameworks I use. In biology (and related disciplines), I'm a Darwinian. I say this with a long list of caveats involving some essential philosophical differences with most Darwinian logics, even down to the ones I most use. But, I am still a Darwinian: When confronted with the history of life on this planet, and when doing the work that is science within that history, I inevitably turn to the concepts and tools of evolutionary biology, whatever its weaknesses in confronting the human spirit.

Similarly, when I think about economics, I do so with a lot of information, models and structure inherited from Austrian (and to a lesser extent, Chicago school, economics). Unlike in the prior example, I almost never call myself an Austrian (for one, as my training is largely personal, I feel less of a reason to align myself with a school), but I will happily admit the influence that Mises and Rothbard have had on my thinking. This does not mean that I do not find the policy ideas and concept of the human person and culture of nearly all Austrians (including the two names before) to be hopelessly naïve at times, and evil at others. I take this as a weakness for which I am not going to throw out many of the very useful conceptual tools of the school; I read Austrianism as being wise when it is wise in spite of its classical liberalism, largely because it seems that many of its core insights undermine its liberalism, but like many ideological disciplines, it cannot part with them. (This often happens to historians of the French Revolution as well, I should note.) Similarly, while Marxism is nearly completely wrong on economics, and massively, truly evil in its execution, I would not throw out its sharp critiques of modern society, either (I just think that, similarly, they exist in tension with the whole rest of the ideological package.)

This all said: Most people are not very careful about how they use and appropriate their frameworks when working in science or social science, or whatever. (Note: Despite all the talk, I'm not a true instrumentalist, though I think the work that is science requires methodological instrumentalism due to the poverty of the human mind.) Enter Stephen Jay Gould:

"Professional training in philosophy does provide a set of tools, modes and approaches, not to mention a feeling for common dangers and fallacies, that few scientists (or few "smart fokls" of an untrained persuasion) are likely to possess by the simple good fortune of superior raw brainpower."

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

This is part of a passage in which Gould largely supports the lament of philosophers of science regarding the fact that scientists themselves are unwilling to listen to them. (Or simply ridicule them: See Richard Dawkins.) While I think that Gould is a little too hopeful for the intellectual honesty of professional philosophers, there is some truth to what he says. And, furthermore, the sorts of intellectual tools provided by philosophy to be able to step back from the work that is science and assess it from the point of view of truth, are not removed from the playing field for "normal", "untrained" smart persons: They just require the willingness to think hard about assumptions, logic and (alas!) metaphysics, combined with a willingness to read carefully and discourse civilly.

In the ideology of Sagan, no matter how urbane he could seem at times, there was ultimately no room for that sort of humility and non-mathematical grunt work. We are grasping the very stuff of stars, Sir, what have you to tell us?

• • •

At the core of many issues between Christian theology and science (and modern academic theology and the theology of the Church) is the fundamental view of rest, of contemplation.

"For the contemplative cleaves to truths rationally and with knowledge, not with effort and struggle, and apart from these he refuses to see anything else because of the pleasure that he has in them."

–St. Maximus the Confessor [trans. Louth, emphasis mine]

Part of the cult of progress is the idealization of intellectual struggle; there is no progress without struggle, struggle is eternal, the darkness always present. Even talk of "Grand Unified Theories" in no way gives up the concept of human struggle, and to the extent that it does, even many of its proponents lament the idea of such a theory being discovered (see: Hawking). Even advocates of Christian philosophy sometimes will find themselves in the language of struggle: There can be no rest, for rest is the end (as in death, not tελος) of the philosophical life.

For us, a contemplation of the truths of the Triune God is the true wellspring of philosophy, the only place where the restless mind can rest in order to reach back out to the world with true reason, true rationality. As rest in anything else would only cement us in error, no wonder the rest of the world embraces restlessness, an eternal end of principle. (Can you not admit the possibility of being wrong?) It would be wise if it didn't forget the necessity of rest, the need to turn away from change to begin to understand it.

He refuses to see anything else because of the pleasure he has in them.

March 12, 2010

sprawl west, young man

"The ubiquitous commercialism you see as you drive through America is not in itself deplorable. What’s deplorable is that Americans aren’t free to do anything else."

I think that a better way to put it would be that "Commercialism is less deplorable when there are other options in the culture", but that's a bit dense. In any case, the debate on sprawl which sparked that line has been fairly interesting, and worth looking over for folks who care about what makes a city.

What, of course, can never be advanced as policy is reaching ends commonly associated with the values of the Left through the means commonly associated with the Right. The healthcare debate in this country has been struck by a particularly egregious example of this, for anyone who has worked in the industry and thought much about it (which I have, in a fairly grunt-like position, and many of my family members, in more exalted ones). The environmental debate suffers from a subtler example, for which one has to look at how law shapes large corporations which are detached from the ability of even somewhat informed consumers to properly understand and make intelligent decisions about commerce with them. In all cases, it is clear that our current system of governance can provide no way out of the woods that is not just another disgrace.

March 9, 2010

republican glory, republican bookselling

I'm nearly finished with Gordon Wood's Empire of Liberty, and the experience of actually reading the thing has made me think more about publishing and bookbinding.

I want to be sympathetic to cries of the downfall of the "independent bookseller". However, by and large, the independent bookseller has been less diverse and more restrictive of choice than either of the big boxes or especially Amazon in particular has made it possible for me to acquire all sorts of texts my lack of formal affiliation or financial largesse would have otherwise left inaccessible. Rather than participating in the further leveling of taste into easily marketed sub-cultures, the absolute vastness that is Amazon has made literary eccentricity a bit more possible, whatever my affections for independent business are. Even the most banal mall Waldenbooks would have been an improvement over the only non-religious bookshop in my hometown, and the eventual opening of a Barnes & Noble just over the county line was a definite improvement to the area's retail offerings, though it came after we had moved away. (That said, the local library was excellently stocked and staffed in a way that has left me unable to bear most city and suburban libraries. I have this–almost certainly false–romantic image of an Empire of small Kentucky town libraries carefully safeguarding culture while their city sisters have fallen to decadence.)

Connected to this is my–far greater–lack of concern about cries about the death of publishing. Books are dying not from being overpriced (when one considers how few persons actually buy books–a hard image for a reader from a family of readers–something like the mark down offered by Amazon seems very reasonable), its been in the way that the book as an instrument for the transmission of knowledge and art has been overtaken by a model where the book is designed to catch eyes on the shelf and drive impulse sales.

This means that a book like Empire of Liberty, with its near-800 pages of (approx.) 9"x6.5" dimensions is placed in a single volume, bold-spine reaching out to the browser. In an age when books where printed to be read, this would have been in at least two volumes of smaller dimensions, maybe three or more.

When the Peter Jackson "Rings" films started coming out and all those mass market one-volume paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings started popping up everywhere, I was pretty horrified, even though they were far easier to hold than Empire of Liberty. I stand by my 3-volume edition of LotR for a simple reason: If a book is too unwieldy to be comfortably read in the bath or laying on the couch, it is not made for human beings to read, but as a billboard. Obviously this involves some willful ignorance of the history of publishing and the manners in which persons have read, but few readers are prone to read extensively at a desk or table (unless eating), except when a text is technical and requires constant reference and interaction. There is no reason that a work of popular scholarship needs to be three pounds.

Despite this, I'm not thrilled about the concept of e-books, either, even if the "e-ink" screens are more like paper. Part of it is an aversion to the need to "charge" my book like any number of other appliances I'm reliant on (laptop, cell phone); when I camp to get away from electric noise, I don't camp to get away from books! Another part is the end of easy interaction with a text, and (sometimes) interaction with previous readers. Another part is the trend towards multi-functionality that makes me ultimately sure that any e-reader will ultimately be used largely for pursuits other than reading (hello, iPad). However, I have some vague hope that the ultimate trend to selling digital licenses for content rather than the published content itself will lead to some revival of bookbinding. Imagine: Being able to select the paper, dimensions and cover materials for each book you purchase; being able to divide into volumes, being able to select library binding for children's books, etc. I have no illusions that this isn't as technocratic a wonder as the whole "e-book" dream, but I think this actually puts technology to the purpose of enhancing the experience and enjoyment of those human beings we call readers, rather than divorcing them from their traditional comforts of smelling fresh books and old bindings.

• • •

That said, Empire of Liberty as a book is rather fascinating. Wood largely navigates a strong path between the various ideologically-inspired readings of the period to attempt to relate it more as it was and as it was experienced. This can become particularly notable in his treatments of controversial subjects like the religiosity of the Founders where he (for one example) denies pictures of Washington as a devout, orthodox Anglican and as a deistic freethinker.

Woods also relates the words of the Founders and other political writers of the period in a very honest fashion; you do not come away with any sort of impression of the Constitution as it is read by any judicial school, for example. The best example of this is in his near-rehabilitation of the Federalists, where he at least gives them the dignity of having convictions, and reasons for them. There is nothing of the modernizing modeling that takes place in some biographies of the Founders, rather Woods does a fairly good job of letting them speak for themselves, and in conversation with more popular voices.

I like also that the book manages to restore something of the strangeness of the whole American incident; readers will come away with the impression it is very little like the world they were taught in school. I thought myself knowledgeable (for a non-specialist) in the period, and Woods managed to surprise me quite a few times, especially in his coverage of how very real political antagonisms over the French Revolution were in the 1790s in America.

Reading American history is always an interesting time for me, emotionally, because I have strong patriotic feelings towards America (it is my country, after all), but a lot of mixed feelings towards Americanism. I suppose my career as a reactionary began at the age of nine when I decided to subvert an assignment given by my teacher from a letter from a colonist supporting the Revolution to a letter from a colonist who was supporting King George, instead.

thoughts in translation

I recently picked up a copy of Joe Sachs's translation of Aristotle's Metaphysics, because I was interested in the claims of his translation to render Aristotelean Greek in something approaching "plain English" (claims of Heidegger's influence also piqued my curiosity, but in a more mixed manner).

One doesn't have to go far in English-speaking Orthodoxy to encounter claims of proper vs improper translation from the Greek. Even persons unfamiliar with either language can be found ready to offer forth opinion on the dreadful influence of improper Latinate grammar on the teachings of the New Testament and Greek Fathers. Whatever the real and continued debates on this phenomenon are, it is clear that they are sometimes real issues, and so perhaps Orthodoxy has left me a little more inclined to appreciate a project like Sachs's over and against my general mistrust of new translations*.

I have not read much of Sachs's translation yet, but I want to get some thoughts down about the project as such as he puts it in his introduction and as hinted at by his Greek-English dictionary that prefaces the text (a convention I fully endorse, by the way).

Sachs's unitary reading of the Metaphysics seems to largely follow that of Reale, even though Reale only gets one brief mention in a footnote to his introduction. This isn't to underestimate any difference between their readings (for example, Sachs seems to be even stronger on reading the whole of the Metaphysics as a work of First Philosophy than Reale), but I am coming to think that any reader of Reale's The Concept of First Philosophy and the Unity of the Metaphysics of Aristotle would probably be aided in understanding by taking in a translation that explicitly endorses a unitary reading.

Sachs's unitary reading, however, focuses on a symphonic character to the Aristotelean corpus, one that would seem very familiar to anyone who has spent much time with Biblical hermeneutics; in fact, Sachs makes explicit this analogy to Scripture: "As with the Hebrew Bible, the various parts of the Metaphysics abound in repetitions, overlapping treatments of related topics, gaps between successive passages and plainly contradictory statements. But while the books of the Bible have been carved up, disassembled, and assigned various sources, the Metaphysics has never been accused of multiple authorship by anyone whose arguments were widely credited."

A conflation of contradiction as part of a rhetorical strategy designed to reach different audiences (or even the same audience at different points) and the logical contradiction of positivism (which is something close to a default position in our world) is a common technique for critical destruction of a text or authorship. It is used by many on the Bible. Another clear example, I think, is the use of Kierkegaard's love of paradox to read his authorship has containing contradictory statements from which the inner school must be derived–usually as some form of Anabaptist Radicalism–against clear statements against such a conception in his own voice. While such a reading of the Metaphysics is becoming increasingly passé (as German-style historical criticism is in theological faculties, though to a lesser degree), it is still good to have a translator who voices against it and for the essential integrity of the work, and embraces that view in translation.

He places this symphonic (my word, not his, I should note) reading in context through an interpretation of dialectic that would not have to be novel if scholarship wasn't so dense. He takes Plato's observations in Meno seriously, and proposes that dialectic is merely the way of communicating about truths that is conducive to friendly conversation. Because of this, we must start with where people are. (This technique only has limited utility in late modernity, where too many persons are apt to deny they are anywhere, or at least anywhere where anyone could possibly communicate intelligibly with them. You go your way and I'll go mine, ok?)

Probably the most controversial of Aristotle's formulations in the Metaphysics has been "being as being". Sachs's reading is dependent on Book Γ, and he renders it in full as "being as being is being as it is in its own right"; this means that everything we can think has existence in some fashion. I also recall Andrew Louth in the introduction to The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition:

"Here we come to a particular point which we shall meet in the ensuing pages, the Greek word nous and its derivatives. Nous is usually translated as 'mind' or 'intellect'. […] The words 'mind' and 'intellect and their derivatives (intellection, intellectual, etc.) have quite different overtones from the Greek nous. The most fundamental reason for this is a cultural one: the Greeks were pre-Cartesian; we are all post-Cartesian. We say, 'I think, therefore I am'. that is, thinking is an activity I engage in and there must therefore be an 'I' to engage in it; the Greeks would say, 'I think, therefore there is that which I think –– to noeta."

This concern with Greek thought as Greek thought and not with interpretive layers is key. It has been noted that it is hard to approach St. Augustine without some residue of the interpretive lens of Thomas Aquinas, and if that is so it goes doubly for Aristotle, and triply for the Metaphysics in particular, where Thomas's commentary is probably the great volume to rebel against or act in favor of. In particular, the traditional terminology of the Metaphysics in English is "Latinate" and derived from the Latin translations of the Middle Ages and of its commentaries. Fresh translations (or fresh borrowings direct from the Greek) have improved our understanding of Patristic literature, and Sachs's project shows some hope, here.

Beyond following Reale in his rejection of the theses of Jaeger**, et al regarding the incoherence of the work, the primary influence on Sachs seems to be Heidegger. Getting a reasonable grasp on Heidegger (largely to try and interpret the fascination he holds for so many "theologians" inside and outside the Church) is something of an ongoing project here, so any intelligent grasp of how Heidegger truly informs Sachs's translation will have to come from another person or my self some time in the dim future.

However, the Heideggerian influence is definitely notable in Sachs's use of long, compound constructions. Orthodox readers will likely be familiar with controversies such as the translation of ουσια as "substance" or even ενεργεια as "activity". In the former case, Sachs opts for a simple, explainable alternative: "thinghood". But with ενεργεια, we get a complicated alternative: "being-at-work". Despite Sachs's claims, I am not entirely sure if such constructions are more readily grasped than Latin, and tend to encourage my favored solution of simply borrowing words (as a good speaker of English should, I'll add). The difficulty of ενεργεια is in its range of mundane and philosophical finery; I think that David Bradshaw's choice to simply render it as energeia, prefacing his work with a chapter covering Aristotle's use, is the best choice for any in depth English approach to the concept. Whether or not it works in a text which is supposed to introduce students to the Metaphysics, I am less sure.

While I would say that solutions such as translating ενεργεια by its cognate, "energy", have led to their own problems (for example, I think that for most English speakers, talk of "the Divine energies" is more likely to be misleading than "the Divine activities", because "energy" is inevitably bound up in conceptions of physical force, electricity or the various energies of our imaginations: phasers, psionics and psychic). To complicate it further, Sachs's translation in no way works for every way in which Aristotle employs the word, perhaps even within the Metaphysics itself (more certainty there after reading his translation), but certainly outside of it. If one needs a plain English rendering, it may be better to split up the "richness" of the Greek, but include some explanatory apparatus, as Fr. Louth does with νους above.

Other constructions have similar issues: Sachs renders τι ην ειναι as "what is for something to be", rather than essence. This has the quality of capturing something more like the thrust of the Greek, but I can't help but think that most native English speakers (myself included) will simply fold this as another possible rendering of "essence" into their heads and simply push forward.

Some of the changes are sensible, and have plenty of scholarly apparatus outside of Sachs and even Aristotelean studies to justify them. His rendering of δυναμις is "potency" rather than "potentiality", but this is actually a fairly common shift in modern scholarship by my very anecdotal impressions. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, the best new translation of Aristotle would likely largely embrace new scholarship's conclusions while being overall conservative about the traditions of translating Aristotle.

Some few other changes are cosmetic, but these could possibly have value: e.g. his translation for απορια is "impasse" rather than "difficulty". Overall, I cannot much evaluate either his case against another revisionist translation of Aristotle–that of Ross–because my only familiarity with his text comes from the frequent reliance upon it in John R. Catan's translations of Reale.

The problem of translating Aristotle fascinates me because it can bring up a lot of the problems of translation in general. As Christians, we are not entitled to believe that truth can only be expressed in one tongue, or that our Liturgies or Scripture are somehow invalid when sung in a new tongue. However, when approaching the texts as intellects, we recognize a certain primacy of the "original", and seek to impregnate the new language with the sense of that text. This is why anti-Western writers are not deranged for lamenting the use of Latin terminology in Orthodox theology, for example, because the terminology has been loaded with other meanings, and we want to impregnate the language used in English to express Orthodox theology with the meanings of words as they are to the Fathers, monastics and teachers.

Translation is not only an art or a science, but also best understood as being a position of guardianship of truth not unlike that of the real calling of the philosopher in some ways. Where the philosopher defends truth through reason, the translator should properly defend reason through a love of the truth. You uphold the essential rationality of the Fathers by translating them properly, and to do less would be a failure not just of scholarship, but of the care of souls, to a sense. (If you find this extreme, think of how minds can be warped by mistranslations or poorly-interpreted renderings of Scripture!)

Obviously, with Aristotle, who is not a Father nor Scripture (though the role of his thought in preparing the intellectual ground for the rational exploration of human encounter with the Triune God through the Incarnation and the Church cannot be dismissed as delusional), the stakes seem far less high, and we are able to think a bit clearer about the meanings of good translation, rather than get absorbed in the political stances which characterize most positions on the use of translations for the Church. Even efforts so obviously flawed as the "Septuagint" of the OSB are defended from positions of high passion, rather than following the God who says, "Let us reason together." Because of this, I'm fascinated by the opportunity analyzing an effort like Sachs's–however flawed or successful–gives me to look into my own mind before I continue any act of translation of my own.

*A distrust that doesn't stem from any particular intellectual justification other than my hatred of most new Biblical translations.

**He does throw a good barb at Michelet's Hegelian-inspired interpretation of the Metaphysics as a purposed synthesis: "The doctrines of Hegel are not universally accepted, and ought not to be projected onto an author who had no acquaintance with them." For someone who began his blog with an attack on Alasdair MacIntyre's synthetic reading of Thomas, you can understand the warm thoughts.

March 3, 2010

hagiographical difficulties

The Ochlophobist has a great post up about St. Non, and the problem all those virgin martyrs who chose death over violation pose for modern ears. Hagiography in general, I think, is a hard pill to swallow for us, so divorced from our ancestors.

For Christmas, I received St. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People from a good friend of mine who is an Anglican priest. (He noted that anyone with any sort of English background who didn't own the work, needed to own it. I stood convicted.) I just got around to reading it–in small bites, because it favors those–and I recently stopped during this account:

AS they were returning from thence, Germanus fell and broke his leg, by the contrivance of the Devil, who did not know that, like Job, his merits would be enhanced by the affliction of his body. Whilst he was thus detained some time in the same place by illness, a fire broke out in a cottage neighbouring to that in which he was; and having burned down the other houses which were thatched with reed, was carried on by the wind to the dwelling in which he lay. The people all flocked to the prelate, entreating that they might lift him in their arms, and save him from the impending danger. He, however, rebuked them, and relying on faith, would not suffer himself to be removed. The multitude, in despair, ran to oppose the conflagration; however, for the greater manifestation of the Divine power, whatsoever the crowd endeavoured to save, was destroyed; but what he who was disabled and motionless occupied, the flame avoided, sparing the house that gave entertainment to the holy man, and raging about on every side of it; whilst the house in which he lay appeared untouched, amid the general conflagration. The multitude rejoiced at the miracle, and praised the superior power of God. An infinite number of the poorer sort watched day and night before the cottage; some to heal their souls, and some their bodies. It is impossible to relate what Christ wrought by his servant, what wonders the sick man performed: for whilst he would suffer no medicines to be applied to his distemper, he one night saw a person in garments as white as snow, standing by him, who reaching out his hand, seemed to raise him up, and ordered him to stand boldly upon his feet; from which time his pain ceased, and he was so perfectly restored, that when the day came on, he, without any hesitation, set forth upon his journey.

The translation I've been reading says that the crowd was "overjoyed" at the demonstration of the power of God; I can hardly imagine a multitude in this nation praising God for burning down their houses, foiling their attempts at extinguishing the fires, while leaving one bishop untouched. Were anyone to praise this as proof of the power of God, new atheist and theologian alike would certainly be quick to the fray: "Then your God is a monster!" says the atheist, "God is no monster!" says the theologian…

To quote another blogger's recent entry: 'Even those “hard” passages in the Old Testament have been detoxified as “mythic.”'

It is for this reason that I can never quite accept attempts made to push God out of the suffering of this world. We are taught that suffering is call to repentance, but we seem to deny also that it has any constructive use. We want to speak of ascetism without suffering, fasting without hunger. The idea that the all-powerful Triune God we worship is somewhat taken aback by natural disaster, fire and more seems naïve. In their defense, most theologians writing on these issues confess the Biblical narratives, but we might condemn Pat Robertson while turning an uncomfortably blind eye to a Patriarch of our Church. I happen to think there is a difference, but it would be nice if it could be articulated boldly.

We want to assert the truth: That God does not work evil upon men. We also want to leave all modern consciences unassailed, so we sanitize: God does not allow even suffering, God does not condemn, God does not demonstrate his power to convict minds of his glory.

I could not begin to claim that I have answers to these problems, or even am particularly "traditional" about them. I have a modern conscience. The first religions of my youth were those of the Enlightenment, not the one of God, and my outlook will likely be dimmed by them for as long as I do not cooperate fully in the exorcism. Like the Ochlophobist, I'm much more inclined to like the hagiography of St. Non's rape, rather than that of St. Agnes, but it is likely a fault of mine that I see a distinction, rather than holy women living out lives for God in a depraved world.

Similarly, I want God in Bede's story of Germanus to extinguish all the flames, or have them burn miraculously without consummation, I don't want the power of God demonstrated in some sort of act of caprice, wherein one house is saved while others burn. But our God is a God who does not shy from scandal, so the fault is mine, the fault is mine.